The mission of the Franciscan Friars of Olancho was established in May'1983. The mission territory is 26,000km and hosts twelve parishes, a bishop, Monsignor Joseph Bonello and twenty one priests. The friars at this mission belong to the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate Conception Province, New York, USA. To help you better understand our mission, we have organized information on this page with:


  • Background Information,
  • Poverty in Honduras,
  • A Day in the Life of a Missionary including a personal testimony from me, Father Albert, "A Hard Day's Night."


Background Information

Honduras is one of five republics of Central America. It is a country of about eight million people divided into eighteen states called "departamentos." Olancho is the biggest departamento in Honduras with a population of 440,000 people. The capital of the state of Olancho is Juticalpa and this is where the bishop lives and is the center of both the religious and civil life of Olancho. In all of Honduras there are only eighteen priests to shepherd their respective flocks.


The parish of Santa Gertrudis (St. Gertrude's) is situated on the outskirts of Juticalpa. I, Father Albert along with two friars, four Franciscan nuns (Poor Clares) and the Bishop cater to the spiritual needs and the many social necessities for members of the parish. The parish has a population of 44,000 people living in Juticalpa itself and in fifty five surrounding villages.


Saint Gertrude's is a faith filled parish that in addition to the spiritual activities of the parish such as Masses, Baptisms, Confessions, Marriages etc., parishioners are also involved in the Apostolic movements of the Christian Family Movement, the Order Franciscan Secular (Third Order, 60 members), the youth groups and the Celebradores De La Palabra De Dios. Parishioners take seriously the human needs of the parish, especially those most vulnerable, the children and the elderly. Currently, in place for the children are:


  • The parish kindergarten where 66 kids come to school every day
  • The parish clinic where twice a week two doctors from the same parish freely give their service to attend to the sick children of the parish
  • The parish nutritional center where we all try very hard to feed about 150 very poor kids every day


Poverty in Honduras

A note on the meaning of poverty in Honduras. To be poor in Central America takes on a different meaning than in other parts of the world. For others in foreign countries, poverty may be defined by an income level, a limited lifestyle etc. In Honduras, poverty has a much more serious meaning. Those who are considered poor are those people who are unable to take care of themselves. This is a great concern for all of us at the mission. In particular our attention is drawn to the most disenfranchised of all, the elderly and the children. Our response to this has been the establishment of two projects: HOGAR DE ANCIANOS "PAZ Y BIEN" (The Old Age Home) and the HOGAR DE NIÑOS "SANTA MARIA DE LOS ANGELES" orphanage.


In recent years, the international trade embargo against Honduras has brought many hardships. To highlight just how serious the situation is, I would like to share with you what has happened to the children of the orphanage. The children of the orphanage used to receive powdered milk as part of their daily meals, but no longer. Currently, there is no powdered milk available to be purchased. To ensure the survival of the infants, nursing mothers volunteer to daily breast feed the babies. As for everyone else, the staple diet of beans, rice and tortillas has sustained them throughout the political crisis.


A Day in the Life of a Missionary

One of our benefactors at this mission is a Toronto group of fellow Franciscans of the Third Order. I visit them every year and during one of my annual visits, I was prompted to briefly describe what a day in the life of a missionary is like. Below is my response entitled, "A Hard Day's Night."


A Hard Day's Night

Many people often ask themselves, what do priests do all day? That’s a pretty tough question for any priest to answer! It is even hard to answer for us priests in the Missions of Honduras, since, more often than not, one day is very different from another. Here, even the climate plays an important role. Mud slides, rivers overflowing, roads are completely washed away. Sometimes it rains for days on end and you can’t leave your house. Other times you get stuck in a river for 2-3 days, until a couple of oxen are found to pull your car out. Naturally, we try to program our day, our week and month, but quite a few times during the month our days are programmed according to the weather. So in these few lines, I’ll try to let you know how normally I spend a normal day.


The luminous dials of the clock mark 5:15 in the morning. It feels so cozy under the blankets...maybe a few more minutes...but, no way! Time to get up. Cloudy and pretty cold at this hour. I’m sure it will warm up later. Go to the washroom. No shower. Just enough water to wash my face, shave and brush my teeth. A quick cup of instant coffee and a cigarette. Time to open the bakery. Take the bread for breakfast to the orphanage and the house for the elderly and 10 bags to the nutritional center. The eleven bakers arrive to start the day’s work and some people come to buy the first bags of bread. Load the jeep with all of last night’s bread and head for the center of town. A few customers are already waiting. Sales are up! Our bread sells like hot cheesecakes! By mid-day there’s nothing left. Empty casseroles, trays and boxes return to the jeep. Head back to Santa Gertrudis Parish. I help distribute lunch at the orphanage and among the elderly. Some of these need to be fed like babies. By 2pm all is done. The kids play and the elderly dream at their siesta. There’s an air of calm and quiet after everyone has been fed.


Time to prepare my Mass kit to go say Mass in a village called Sineuyapa, about an hour away. Fifty minutes of Confessions, 42 kids for First Communion and 5 couples to get married. Barely made it! 6:15pm. Rush home for the 7pm Mass. Get there a little late. Nobody makes a scene. Luckily late is not late in Honduras! I hear some Confessions and say Mass. Nearly 8:30pm when all is done. After Mass, one last meeting with 27 couples preparing themselves to get married. Ten o’clock! I check one last time on the kids. Some are still awake, waiting to give me one last hug before sleeping. At the house for the elderly, one of the Sisters checks to see all is ok. Like me, she is half asleep on her legs.


Back to the parish house, the huge black labrador jumps with joy. He has not eaten all day...just like me! We’ll have brunch and supper all at one go. Three for the price of one!!! Fry 3 eggs, tomatoes, local cheese and tortillas. Feed the dog and let him know that he’s my best friend. His name is Papillon! As one last good deed of the day, I manage to get in touch with my sister in Toronto. We say “Hi,” practice some Maltese, and she tells me the last news about my 89 year old father back in Malta. It’s close to midnight. I catch the news on the radio, one last cigarette and fall asleep instantly!


And I dream of St. Francis smiling down on us from Heaven. And I dream of you, our benefactors, who from Toronto, through your prayers and generosity make all this possible. Sound good? Sure! It was just another day in my life!

Fr. Albert, OFM